“Can soccer help people in a crisis or war, can it give people strength and courage?”
I couldn’t quite believe what I was reading recently, namely that Ukraine is bidding for the 2030 World Cup! What? Now, after Russia’s attack, as the country fights for its very survival as war rages right in the middle of Europe? At first I thought this must be fake news. But it turns out the original two applicants, Spain and Portugal, have included Ukraine in their application. You may think this is nonsense in view of the numerous problems people in Ukraine are currently facing. But it is also a message that shows the incredible optimism and confidence that is emanating from the embattled country. Can soccer help people in a crisis, or even in a war, can the sport give people strength and courage? Soccer is a global language and I am convinced that soccer can help children at school, improve people’s health and spread joy. Soccer enables people to meet and even become friends who otherwise would not have come into contact. “Play Football – Win Friends!” is the motto of the ONE NATION CUP, a youth soccer festival with U15 teams from all over the world, girls and boys, which I launched many years ago. Yes, soccer can do good even in times of crisis. However, there is also another side of the coin: Corruption in the awarding of major events, disregard for human rights, homophobia and the exclusion of women. Outside of soccer, we are also seeing disasters everywhere. How should companies deal with crises? Can we learn something from soccer? My answer to this difficult question is: Yes, namely standing side by side! When things get difficult on the pitch, you have to stick together! That is what the youngest players learn in the very first teams they ever play in. Helping each other, trusting each other – that was also the core message in a recent speech by the German president about the crisis.